Why Antidepressants Don’t Always Work

According to a study out of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP), SSRI antidepressants (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are amongst the most commonly taken medicines. However, there seems to be no way of knowing in advance whether or not SSRIs will work effectively. Now a group of researchers has developed a new theory of SSRI action, and tested it in stressed mice. The results show why the circumstances we find ourselves in may influence whether an antidepressant works or not.

“There is no doubt that antidepressants work for many people, but for between 30 and 50 percent of depressed people, antidepressants don’t work,” said one researcher. “No-one knows why. This work may explain part of the reason.” She went on to explain, “In a certain way it seems that the SSRIs open the brain to being moved from a fixed state of unhappiness, to a condition where other circumstances can determine whether or not you recover.” The researchers say that the environment is a factor.

To test this, they stressed mice for two weeks, treating some of the mice with an SSRI fluoxetine and split the group, having half the mice, while the other half was introduced to a more comfortable environment. The mice in the more comfortable environment showed an increase in the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and decreased anti-inflammatory-related genes, as well as showing fewer signs of depression, whereas those under continuous stress showed the opposite effect.

The study seems to indicate that the environment determines the response to antidepressants. The researcher adds, “This work indicates that simply taking an SSRI is probably not enough. To use an analogy, the SSRIs put you in the boat, but a rough sea can determine whether you will enjoy the trip. For an SSRI to work well, you may need to be in a favorable environment. This may mean that we have to consider how we can adapt our circumstances, and that antidepressant treatment would only be one tool to use against depression.”


raziRazi Berry, Founder and Publisher of Naturopathic Doctor News & Review (ndnr.com) and NaturalPath (thenatpath.com), has spent the last decade as a natural medicine advocate and marketing whiz. She has galvanized and supported the naturopathic community, bringing a higher quality of healthcare to millions of North Americans through her publications. A self-proclaimed health-food junkie and mother of two; she loves all things nature, is obsessed with organic gardening, growing fruit trees (not easy in Phoenix), laughing until she snorts, and homeschooling. She is a little bit crunchy and yes, that is her real name.

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